A worthy scholar, soldier and politician

KV Prasad

The death of former Union Minister Jaswant Singh brought an end to a rare breed of personality who shaped a successful political career after leaving the Indian Army. The 82-year-old politician breathed his last on Sunday after remaining in coma for the last six years, as a result of a fall at home.

Hailing from Rajasthan and having entered politics in 1980s, Jaswant Singh was a member of the Lok Sabha on four occasions, including once representing Darjeeling backed by the Gorkhas and in the Rajya Sabha for five terms. He left the BJP after being denied a ticket in 2014 and contested the Barmer Lok Sabha as an Independent.

Much before he came into national limelight, the suave and articulate preferred to identify in his baritone voice as Major Jaswant Singh, with pride of being associated with Central India Horse, an armoured regiment.

Jaswant Singh came in contact with Atal Bihari Vajpayee and their friendship grew as fellow travellers in the Bharatiya Janata Party. Although he did not have association with the RSS, he had the trust of both Vajpayee and LK Advani since the inception of the party.

A gentleman and mild natured person, Jaswant Singh was a scholar in his own right with deep interest in foreign affairs, an aptitude that helped him share interests with Vajpayee.

As the External Affairs Minister in the Vajpayee government, it was left to him to navigate the country’s international engagement after the Pokhran nuclear tests in 1998.

Jaswant Singh was among the few Indian politicians who had the distinction of serving in three of the four prime ministries on the Raisina Hill — External Affairs, Defence and Finance and Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission.

Yet for all his achievements, he had to face severe criticism for the handling of the Kandhar hijack in 1999 and live with barbs from opposition for having taken terrorists Masood Azhar and two others to Afghanistan in exchange of the passengers held hostage on a Indian Airlines plane. He wrote several books, including “A Call to Honour”, an account of his days in politics and “Jinnah: India Partition Independence” in which he held Congress leaders responsible for it.

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